A Meditation, A Lament: Allen Gaborro’s “EDSA Forgotten”

“EDSA Forgotten” by Allen Gaborro (FilAm Star, February 16-28, 2009)

For most Filipinos, the remembrance of their country’s past has not been much of a useful resource nor a compelling pursuit.  It is a signature theme of our globalized century that the world rotates around economics.  Filipinos have become creatures of this theme.  They know as well as anyone else that the world rotates around economics.  Filipinos have become creatures of this theme.  They know as well as anyone else that economics has been placed front and center on the global stage.  Today’s Filipino, perhaps more than at any other time in Philippine history, has contorted this historical inheritance in the quest for material goods, so much so that a blinding philistinism has set in.

The EDSA I uprising took place twenty-three years ago in what was then, for a few days at least, a Philippines reborn.  Those heady days in February 1986 saw, probably for the first time since World War Two, Filipinos truly united in two noble causes:  the removal of a corrupt dictator to begin the awesome task of rebuilding the republic into the nation that they always thought it should have been.

EDSA I was Filipinos’ best chance in years to right so many wrongs from the past. It was the chance of a lifetime for Filipinos, a chance to wipe the slate clean and to start anew. History it seemed, was finally rewarding Filipinos for their long suffering, for their collective martyrdom, and for their loss of respect in the international community and amongst themselves.

Like the abortive 1899 Malolos Constitution however, EDSA I had an abbreviated shelf-life in the Filipino consciousness. Once everyone came down to earth from the euphoric atmosphere of EDSA, they had to face the daunting Philippine reality that loomed before them. That reality would eclipse the miracle of EDSA I and what its significance was to the Filipino people.

What did EDSA I mean to Filipinos, other than the deposing of a reviled autocrat? In an essay for the 10th anniversary of the EDSA revolt I wrote that the event launched the Philippines “on a refreshingly new course: the nation, once again united under the banner of freedom and democracy, could now be pointed towards the collective goal of improving all aspects of Filipino life. People Power, coming in the wake of an exposed military conspiracy for the seizure of government, became a lesson for all Filipinos, a lesson in both conscience and consciousness.”

In the essay, I added that EDSA I also “represented a new dawn for the common Filipino. With their future all but mortgaged and their existence turned into a reservoir of despair and degradation, the common Filipino folk were shown by the new leaders of the country the tapestry of social and economic reform. People Power helped revive the hearts and minds of the masses for it granted them a hearing for their long-ignored needs and concerns. The masses now discerned a positive meaning in the countless wrongs and deprivations that had been inflicted on them under the Marcos administration. The success of People Power promised to reward their suffering with their rebirth as a proud, liberated, and prosperous people.”

How hollow my observations sound now for Filipinos have squandered the miracle of EDSA I. Since 1986, the Philippines has experienced the historic continuum of growing socio-economic inequality, rampant political corruption, massive levels of poverty, and a host of other intractable problems, problems that should have been alleviated, if not completely solved, by now had the country had any lasting semblance of credible and effective political leadership. Whatever episodes of success have actually materialized in the story of the post-EDSA I Philippines have fallen through the proverbial cracks.

In the 21st century Philippines, materialistic attitudes do the talking. History meanwhile has devolved into a redundant, almost irrelevant feature of Philippine society. For these reasons, EDSA I has been relegated to being a historical afterthought, especially for Filipino youths. Older folks lament the fact that the so-called “EDSA spirit” is barely visible on the radar screen of younger generation Filipinos. These younger Filipinos simply have other more acquisitive priorities than thinking about something that happened before many of them were born.

The more time we put between our present era and that of the seminal EDSA uprising, the more distant the intrinsic value of Philippine history becomes at our own peril. Modernity has taught Filipinos to avoid living in the past. Yet, they can never escape that past until they understand its lessons and implications for the future.

1 Comment

  1. July 29, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Unity through the EDSA revolutions were previously successful but only if the authorities respect democracy. Pres. Gloria Arroyo though was protested because of her disloyalty to people but she never gave up her position even though she have violated the constitution and the main thought of democracy.

    Unity through peaceful revolution is useless if the president or the authority is a dictator.


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